At least 68 people have been killed at a Venezuela police station, where an apparent riot and escape attempt resulted in a fire. The casualties have been confirmed by the country’s prosecutor general.
The fire took place in the General Command of the Carabobo Police in the city of Valencia. After the fire, dozens of relatives gathered outside the station, trying to break in to get answers, reportedly forcing police to intervene.
Venezuela Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab has confirmed the incident in a series of tweets, saying 68 people were killed in “a presumed fire,” including 66 men and two female visitors. He said four special prosecutors have been appointed to investigate the incident.
1) El @MinpublicoVE informa a la opinión pública que ante los terribles hechos acaecidos en la Comandancia d la Policia del Edo Carabobo, donde por un presunto incendio fallecieron 68 personas:HEMOS DESIGNADO 4 FISCALES ( 3 reg y 1 nac) para esclarecer estos dramáticos hechos
— Tarek William Saab (@TarekWiliamSaab) March 29, 2018
The rioting reportedly started early Wednesday morning. Venezuelan officials have not shared any versions of the events, but witnesses reported hearing gunfire from inside the police station before plumes of black smoke started rising from it. Relatives say many of the victims died from burns and smoke inhalation.
According to prisoner rights organization Una Ventana a la Libertad, cited by various media, the fire started after some of the prisoners set fire to their mattresses and stole a gun from a guard.
Venezuela is no stranger to violent prison riots and escapes. In August 2017, a riot left 37 people dead and 14 wounded in police cells in the southern state of Amazonas, and earlier in March 2018, 58 detainees escaped their holding cells on Margarita Island after a hole opened up in the wall, but were later recaptured.